Bikepacking From Wyoming To California (Part 2)
Our experience on a 2-week bikepacking trip!
If you missed Part 1, click here. Otherwise, read on as we pick up on Day 6 in Provo, UT.
Our destination for the day was Delta, UT. Delta is where we would intercept Highway 50, the highway we’d use to get all the way to western Nevada. In a great mood from our rest day and the beer-fairy taking care of us, we were even more stoked to have a second road find that day – this time, a Spiderco pocketknife. It was small enough and light enough to bring, so we took it with us. We arrived in Delta, found a Maverick service station and to keep with the positive theme of the day, discovered they had Modelo brand Chelada beers. If you’ve never had a Michelada, think Mexican lager meets Bloody Mary. We figured tomato juice, lots of salt and a beer was the perfect recovery drink and way to wrap up a day. Before the trip ever started, we’d planned to have them daily, but had been hard pressed to find them up until this point. Wyoming and Colorado residents must not be fans of them. Previously, we’d been able to find the Budweiser version, but our favorite was the Modelo and Delta, UT delivered. Across the street there was a Little Caesars Pizza. We each got a pizza, put it in a bag (yes, literally transferred from a pizza box to a grocery bag) and pedaled out of town in search of a place to build a camp for the night. We still felt great and pushed on finding a camp spot at mile 106.
Still feeling reasonably fresh from our rest day and knowing our next destination was just about 80 miles down the road without too much climbing, we got some extra sleep and departed for our
Spending a week on Mountain Time made our first Pacific Time morning a breeze. We woke, had the luxury of some gas station coffee, and departed at 8am with roughly another 80 miles on queue for
Our 80-mile-a-day routine and the accumulating fatigue had us enjoying our 8am departures.
After a large climb and another mountain summit, we dropped into town. We’d make another dry camp outside of town and did an all-to-familiar gas station refuel to get us through the afternoon, evening, and the next day. We were generally chipper and began to taste how close to home we were. That days were counting down.
To our pleasure, 2 more patrons entered, mentioning they’d driven around town only to discover options were limited for dining. They were a friend pair of middle-aged women and noticing our bike gear (and likely our aroma) made conversation about our trip. They too were on a tour, of sorts – the husband of one of the women was riding his bike to Utah to visit family. She decided to go with him, but in the car leaping ahead from one from one roadside inn to the next and every watering hole in between. After a nice conversation, we departed, picked up more food and water for another dry camp outside of town and pedaled on. Austin was up in the range, so our departure was downhill, but the scene was eerie. As we descended, the valley that lay ahead appeared to be full of a haze or a dark fog. Given the day’s weather featured bright, sunny, cloud-free skies, it was confusing. As we hit the valley floor, we realized this “haze” was a dust storm. The wind had kicked up sand and dirt and dust and suspend it in the air. Fortunately, it wasn’t too bad, and we pressed on. Surprises of the day were not over, however. We soon crossed sections of roadway that appeared to be littered with quarter-size objects. Close inspection and some research revealed this to be Mormon Crickets. They formed dense bands across the entire width of the road for hundreds of yards at a time. Then there would be none. Then thousands more, then none. This went on for miles and miles. We moved quickly through these sections as they hoped around to dodge our tires. Some were bright red, some were dark black, others were tanner in color. Those that have been crushed by cars left a splattered mess and a foul smell. We made camp on the next summit recognizing this strange phenomenon seemed to be contained to the valleys.
We woke with the sun the morning of
We continued our trip with Corey relegated to a 2-speed bike. Motivation was high to make Fallon, NV in hopes that we could find a bike shop or at least have a place to lean the bike and try to work on it further. Fallon would provide us with a 100-mile day. Wind had shifted and was blowing from the north. With some southern travel, we took as much advantage of the tail wind as we cool, considering Corey’s gearing limitations. Roughly our halfway point, we made a stop at Middlegate for a quick burger and beer. The bar at middle gate is a popular watering hole for OHV vehicles playing at Sand Mountain. We were early enough in the day to beat most of the crowds but rushed back to the bikes to ride the more favorable wind before the weather changed its mind. Climbs were slow going as Corey muscled his loaded bike over them. Descents weren’t much better as he was forced to coast after quickly spinning out. We made it to Sand Mountain before our 3rd mechanical of the day arose – a jammed chain snapped a link. We determined this was likely the result of extreme chain angles and the extra force of climbing with a loaded bike in a tall gear combination. After removing a bent link and pinning the chain back together, we were off and made it to Fallon. There was no bike shop to be found, but a Little Caesars Pizza was calling our names again, as were Modelo Micheladas. It was time for a shower and some laundry. We made camp at an RV park in town, cleaned ourselves, our clothing and tried to better Corey’s shifting. The first two were a success, but the bike remained in its shift-less state. Corey would have to ride another day on a 2-speed bike.
The down time fighting mechanicals the day prior had us repeating the sleep-in mantra of the of the of the previous morning. That, and the fact that we knew our next stop was Reno, NV – a short day – only 68 miles to get there! Our camp for
As we gained on town, a herd of wild horses crossed in front of us before we turned onto Six Mile Canyon Road toward Virginia City. The name of the road is quite literal – it’s a 6 mile, twisting canyon road that climbs up to Virginia City, a historic western town. Corey was a champ on the steep and pitchy climb, pedaling something like a 36x18 gear ratio. I did my best to match his gear as long as I could on the climb but bailed on the steepest pitches toward the end. A bustling, tourist town, we popped out in Virginia City and were reminded it was the weekend by groups of motorcycles out for rides and hordes of families battling for the limited parking. We passed through as quick as we could and scurried up a few more climbs along Geiger Grade before having the realization that we were almost home. The top of Geiger was our first view of the Sierra Nevada mountains – the range that divides Nevada from California. It was a moment of inspiration followed by a descent of the Northwest side of Geiger Grade down to Reno. This was certainly an all-time top descent – smooth, predictable, wide shoulder, no debris, brakeless and fast! Our only regret was not having been able to ride it on standard road bikes with working gears.
We dropped into Reno, full of smiles and stoked on the fantastic ride down the grade. We navigated to Raising Canes fried chicken to replenish our sodium levels and caloric needs. Corey’s cousin, Erik, met us there and shuttled us across the busy city to his place for the night. Reno is only a 3-hour drive from Chico. Both Corey’s wife, Kimberly, and my wife, Britiany, met up with us at Erik’s house to play “soigneurs” for the evening, making us dinner, dressing our sunburns and rashes, replenish our ride food and generally contributing to the chipper mood. Perhaps most importantly, however, Kimberly was able to source and bring a replacement shifter to fix Corey’s bike. We swapped for the new shifter, and he was back to full-capacity equipment. We ate, drank and were merry.
We passed through aiming for The Brewing Liar, a fun, alpine, outdoor brewery in the woods. As we pulled in, I heard my name shouted from across the way. It was some friends, Rob and Emily, who’d made the trip up from Chico for a family visit and to get in some trail running. It was a pleasant surprise to see friendly faces and enjoy a beer together. But Quincy still lay up the road. We pressed on, riding into the evening thanks to our late start, detours and backtracks. Quincy is a sleepy mountain town and arriving on a Sunday evening meant most businesses were closed. The old standby Polka Dot burger shake was, however, open. We chowed down and cruised through town to camp on the other side. We’d made it to the trees of the Sierra’s and appreciated the protection they gave from the sun and wind as well as their beauty in the sunset. As we exited town, the shoulder of the road was partially blocked by a dead mountain lion. Seeing the creature so close was incredible. The size of its paws and length of its tale were spectacular up close. We weren’t happy it was dead, but glad we weren’t observing it live at the same distance. We pressed on to set up camp before dark, enjoying a stealthy, treed, side of the road camp in the fresh air and trees of our home mountains. Sure, there were mosquitoes it the wetter environment of the Feather River Canyon, but it was worth it. A friend from Chico, Ken, wanted to join for the last leg of the trip and got dropped off just after dark to camp for the night.
Rolling into town was such an accomplished feeling. We were home and we’d made it under our own power and (mostly) our own support. I was looking forward to a mattress, running water, real food and the luxuries of modern life. It didn’t take but a moment for me to realize how much I was going to miss touring life. Its such simple living – wake up, tear down camp, eat everything you can, pedal all day, make camp and repeat. Being out in the wild on a big adventure is something very special and rare for most. It’s testing, but potentially life changing. There is time to think and be alone with your thoughts. Distractions don’t exist. The things that matter each day are so different than what matters in your typical day-to-day. Did I want to set up a tent that night and pedal again the next day? Not really. But did I want the experience to end? Nope. It was brutally difficult and terribly exhausting. It was dirty and mean at times. But the saddle is a home of sorts. Not to be cliché, but the experience was, in a word, surreal. This was my first long tour, but it will not be my last.
I hope you enjoyed following along with the trip. If you’ve been inspired to go on your own trip and don’t know where to begin, we wrote some articles that might assist you. But the best advise we can give you is to get out there and do it!
Miss the first part? Read about it here:
|Day 6||Provo, UT to Delta, UT||106 miles||6h:42m||3,127ft||Stayed at an RV park in Provo. Back at it today. Finally, a lighter wind day! Corey broke a masterlink 1 mile into the ride. Scored a REAL Modelo MICHELADA and a Little Caesar’s Pizza in Delta. Onto hwy 50 through Nevada until Reno. Stoked to have found a six pack of Corona on the roadside! Had 2 each. Also found a nice knife on the side of the road. Camped outside of Delta.|
|Day 7||Delta, UT to Baker, NV (Board Inn)||82 miles||5h:32m||3,350ft||Finished with Utah. Stayed at the Board Inn RV park. Nice long afternoon and time zone change bought us an extra hour of rest. Showers, laundry, rest.|
|Day 8||Baker, NV to Ely, NV||78 miles||6h:03m||5,322ft||Near Baker, UT (Boarder Inn RV park) to just past Ely, NV. Carnitas Torta in Ely. Grocery store refuel for a dry camp. Found MICHELADA #5. Found ANOTHER unopened roadside beer! Had some descents that put us in the 40mph range. Able to coast them - all descent prior were pedally and very slow.|
|Day 9||Ely, NV to Eureka, NV||80 miles||5h:27m||3,973ft||Camped outside Ely, NV. Pit stopped in Eureka, NV and cruised on to make camp outta town. Uneventful day. Lighter winds, a sizable climb, lots of desert and sun.|
|Day 10||Eureka, NV to Austin, NV||73 miles||6h:36m||4,455ft||Outside Eureka to Austin. Then pedaled on a ways. Back to the wind wind wind. Just like WY, it was a slow head wind wind alllll day long.|
|Day 11||Austin, NV to Fallon, NV||99 miles||5h:25m||1,785ft||Very cold morning leaving camp. Slept at a summit around 7500’ elevation. Some more frozen bottles. All the layers on for the descent. Grateful for a mostly-north wind on a day with lots of southern travel. We had lots of descending and tail cross wind so we covered ground quickly but we’re plagued with mechanicals. Corey got a flat who he as quickly followed by his rear shifter dying. Later, he snapped his chain. We arrived at our camp site at the RV Park in Fallon, NV, where he sprung another flat. Hoping for better luck tomorrow!|
|Day 12||Fallon, NV to Reno, NV||68 miles||4h:42m||3,858ft||Left the RV park in Fallon. Lots of road debris caused flat #3. Headed up toward Virginia City. Made for a big climb as Corey’s shifter was broken. Dropped down Geiger (top 5 descent I’ve ever ridden) into Reno.|
|Day 13||Reno, NV to Quincy, CA||97 miles||6h:15m||4,285ft||Late start after staying in Reno at Corey’s cousin’s place. That ladies came up to cook for us and spend time with us. Cruised through Reno to 395 to 70. Stopped outside Portola at the brewing lair for a beer and ran into Emily and Rob! Dinner in Quincy and a road side camp just outta town. Great to be outta the desert and into the trees. Ken met up for the night to ride the last leg with us.|
|Day 14||Quincy, CA to Chico, CA||75 miles||4h:05m||2,149ft||Last day! Quincy area to Chico. Stopped at a bridge on 70 for a deep water solo rock climb and some refreshing morning swimming. Snagged our last MICHELADA at 4 corners and cruised on home. It was only fitting to have a nasty head wind that last leg of the trip! Super grateful to have Ken with us for a 3rd person to rotate with.|
14 days total, 13 days pedaling
|1143 miles||87.9 miles|
|81 hours, 47 min||6 hours, 17 min|
|51,287ft Elevation||3,945ft Elevation|